OVER the past two years, as Cork have won one Munster title and put themselves in a strong position to win another, the ownership of the number four jersey hasn’t been in question.
Colm Spillane made his championship debut in the win over Tipperary last year and has improved since then, but it has taken a while to become an overnight success. The Castlelyons native turns 25 on Sunday, the day of the Munster final against Clare, with injuries having hampered his development, to the point where he doubted if he would make it with Cork.
‘I did,’ he admits.
‘Really, when I came back on the panel in 2016 I felt it was my chance and that I was going fairly well. I was unfortunate I did my cruciate down here against Waterford in the league.
‘You do think when you’re out injured and you’re getting a bit of older you might have just missed the boat. Kieran [Kingston] had great faith in me, he told me he believed in me and he wanted me to be on the team.
‘I was delighted last year to make my championship debut and once you get a taste for it it’s not something you want to give up easily.’
Even after recovery, it can take time to build up trust that a recurrence isn’t around the corner.
‘It takes it a while to put it behind you because you know the consequences, being out for a year,’ Spillane says.
‘Once you’ve your rehab done and you get used to it you don’t think about it again. I do work on my flexibility, my durability and my strength in the core. I learned when I was younger one of the best abilities you can have is your availability. If you’re training the whole time and playing matches, you’re improving as a player then.
‘The temptation is to do too much maybe. Especially when you might only have a 30-minute session down the pitch and you feel you should be doing a bit more. The recovery aspect is a big difference over the past few years.’
When Cork met Clare in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in the opening game of the new round-robin format, they won by five points, having triumphed by six in last year’s final. They were the third and fourth consecutive championship wins over the Banner County since the 2013 All-Ireland hurling final replay, but that won’t count for much on Sunday, Spillane feels.
‘If you look at the two teams, they’re well-matched,’ he says.
‘Physically we’re the same, they’ve a lot speed in the forwards, they like to play the ball quickly, so there’s going to be very little between the two, I don’t think the bookies can separate us.
‘It’ll be all down to who can perform on the day. It’ll be in the last 10 or 15 minutes, who can stick to their roles, who can put over those crucial points.’